The petition says livestock create more greenhouse gases than the world’s vehicles combined and current eating habits are not sustainable.
“An additional tax on all meat products will encourage people to reduce their meat consumption and shift to more plant-based products,” it says.
An online poll by Worcester University’s Institute of Health, Social Care and Psychology showed 18 per cent of respondents were in favour of a meat tax and 82 per cent against.
Another poll, published in the run up to World Meat Free Day this Monday, found 23 per cent of consumers would consider a meat tax and 62 per cent were against it.
Some 29 per cent of consumers aged between 18 and 24 were supportive of the tax.
In April, the Danish Council of Ethics recommended a tax on beef in Denmark, with a view to taxing all red meat in the future. In the long term, the tax should apply to all foods at varying levels depending on climate impact, the council said.
Suckler beef producer Jilly Greed, co-founder of Ladies in Beef, dismissed the tax as ‘completely ridiculous’.
“To suggest red meat and beef and lamb is on the same plain as sugar by proposing taxing it is just insulting,” she said. “Red meat is part of a healthy, balanced diet. It contains iron, protein, vitamins, minerals and aids healthy brain function.
“From an environmental point of view, the grass-based systems which produce our dairy, beef and lamb occupy the high moors and low valleys. They represent hundreds of thousands of acres, which act as an enormous carbon sink.
"They make a huge contribution to wildlife diversity and form some of our most treasured landscapes, which are key to our hospitality industry.”
She added that consumers would not be willing to pay a meat tax, and that the farming sector should build on its work to encourage healthy eating and cooking from scratch.
World Free Meat Day organisers claim giving up meat for just one meal saves enough carbon to boil a kettle 388 times, the daily water usage of nine people and up to 11g of fat; equivalent to two teaspoons of butter.
Friends of the Earth, which is backing World Meat Free Day, says small changes in diet could have long term effects on health and the environment.
“Thousands of people are switching to low meat diets for healthier, tastier food,” said Kierra Box, Friends of the Earth food campaigner.
“The government and food industry need to step up to the plate too and make it easier for everyone to eat less but better meat.”